Wednesday, February 6, 2008

North Haven students collected books for foster kids

By Amanda Howe
Special to the Register
Bags of books crammed a U-Haul van from floor to ceiling outside the Department of Children and Families Greater New Haven headquarters, all because a small group of area teens decided to help local foster kids.
The seven North Haven Middle School students, some shown at right, spearheaded an effort to collect more than 2,600 donated books going to children served by DCF.
Heading the project was Joe Christofano, an eighth-grade student at North Haven Middle School. He went to the Community Problem Solvers program in his school and came up with the idea to “do something with books” to help foster kids.
“We had a bunch of fundraisers. We stood outside of Stop & Shop and took cash donations but we also accepted donated books,” Joe said.
The students contacted Lisa Flower, programs director for the Office of Public Relations at DCF, in July.2007
“When we were contacted back in July, we thought it was a great idea,” Flower said. “We got data about how many kids in foster care were in this office.”
Flower said that in Greater New Haven on average, about 260 children a month move through foster care. In Connecticut, the average is 4,000 children a month.
Students Marissa Volpe, Derrick Russo, Kenny Broccoli, and Joe Burr traveled to the DCF office to unload the van. Students Caleb Chapman and Drew Proto could not make it.
Roseann Christofano, Joe’s mother, helped the kids raise money and let them use her basement to house the books.
“My basement looked like a Barnes and Noble,” Roseann Christofano said. “But they packed them all up in one day.”
The seven middle schoolers collected more than books. Younger children will receive coloring books and crayons while older children will get books, notebooks, and pens. Each bag is geared toward the child’s age and gender.
Roseann Christofano said that children ages 10 and up will find brochures about drug awareness in the bags. She said fund raising in North Haven was helped by many private businesses donating money or gift cards.
The students held a raffle at school and gave away a Zune mp3 player. Tickets were three for $1 or 50 cents each. North Haven businesses including Tommy K’s Video, The Only Game In Town, Hobby Town U.S.A., McDonalds, and Showcase Cinema donated gift cards to the raffle, while the North Haven Funeral Home and Prudential Real Estate donated money.
Last year, Roseann Christofano said, the group of students from the middle school took part in a snack food drive for the Boys and Girls Village. This was also through Community Problem Solvers and students took first place in a Connecticut competition for their effort.
TChristofano said the projects are judged on an interview they all go to, the project itself, how fund raising was done and how or if the project continues to give back to the community.he students also went on to win fourth in the international competition held in Fort Collins, Colo.
Flower praised the students for taking on the challenge and bringing the project to completion.
“When kids enter DCF, they usually only have a few things. Now they’ll have their very own bag and the reading will help keep their mind off of things,” Flower said. “Now each time a social worker goes out into the field, and they know they are going to see a 3-year-old boy for example, they can grab one of those bags.”
Amanda Howe is a New Haven Register intern.

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